ELL Religion Curriculum Created by Retired PAA Legend

February 01, 2011 | Liesl Vistaunet

Jim Robertson, a retired Portland (Ore.) Adventist Academy teacher for 34 years, recently completed a curriculum designed specifically for students learning the English language. Through this, he is leaving a legacy to students and educators alike.

The name Jesus is new to most of PAA's English Language Learner students. "PAA is their first introduction to the Bible and Christianity," says Les Zollbrecht, PAA religion teacher. It is an added struggle for religion teachers to teach abstract concepts to students who are not fluent in English. Because of this the Oregon Conference commissioned Robertson to develop a curriculum for the unique needs of ELL teachers and their students.

This school year, PAA's 23 ELL students were the first to use the curriculum. Because their English skills are limited, lessons incorporate a lot of hands-on learning. "I wanted them to use as many learning intelligences as possible," says Robertson. "So we have them acting out charades and drawing cartoons of the stories."

And it's working. "I am understanding and remembering the Bible stories better," says Yoon Suh Park, second-year ELL student. "My favorite stories are about Abraham and Sarah because they had to go to a foreign place."

But they're not just learning stories. "We're explaining to these kids who Jesus is and what Christianity is about," says Robertson. "The curriculum explains why our school does what it does; why we have chapel every week and why we do community service." The curriculum also goes on to explain denominations and the unique practices of the Adventist church, like keeping the Sabbath and the state of the dead.

"The project turned out to be a nice bookend after a career of teaching Bible," says Robertson. "It's emotionally satisfying to know that my emphasis on grace and relationship with Christ will continue on through this curriculum and, in a way, I will continue teaching."